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Saturday, 03 March 2018

March 4, 2018

Peter's Denial - Lent 3

Peter’s Denial

March 4, 2018

John 18:12-27

 

Danger and threats to our safety and security are not difficult to find.  When we find them they can create fear.

 

Fear can cause us to act instinctively.  Instinctive reactions are to flee, to fight or to freeze. 

 

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter’s first reaction was to fight.  The Bible tells us Peter had a sword and he cut off the ear of the slave of the High Priest.  Jesus told Peter to put down the sword and he let Peter know that fighting was not the reaction he wanted from him.

 

We’ll give Peter some credit. Most of the disciples chose to flee.  They disappeared into the night.  Peter and another disciple, most probably John, followed Jesus.  In the lesson today, the other disciple gets Peter admitted to the courtyard of the High Priest.  Jesus was being questioned inside the High Priest’s quarters.

 

Three times Peter is asked about or accused of being a disciple of Jesus.  He froze.  He denied that he was a follower. He lied, afraid of the reaction he’d receive if others knew he was a follower of Jesus.  Peter had told Jesus that he would be willing to die for him just hours before.  Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. Jesus’ prediction came true. Under pressure Peter folded.

 

Fear was more powerful than faith.  Peter didn’t think about all the things Jesus had done. Peter didn’t think about the love Jesus had shown him.  Peter, when the pressure was on, could only think of himself and his own survival.

 

I have talked to and heard the stories of people who experienced combat, from World War I to those who have served in the Middle East.  Almost all of them admitted they were afraid.  They all admitted they wanted to do what they could do to protect themselves, to survive.  But in most cases something greater called them to action.  They didn’t want to let down their friends.  They were willing to risk their lives to help protect the lives of those they had grown to love like brothers.

 

Earlier in John’s Gospel Jesus said this: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

 

Jesus knew his life was in danger when he faced both the High Priest and his father-in-law.  He knew that his answers could get him killed.  He didn’t back down.  And he wouldn’t back down when he was whipped and beaten.  He wouldn’t back down when he was nailed to the cross.  He pushed away fear and took the pain and suffering  given to him out of love.

 

John’s first letter proclaims this, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18)

 

Jesus had come into the world to share God’s love.  It was perfect love. It was love that gives forgiveness to those who cannot earn it.  It is love that gives eternal life to those who can never deserve it.  It is love that was willing to suffer and die so that we can know God’s perfect love today and always.

 

After Jesus rose from the dead, Peter and the other disciples met Jesus on a beach.  Peter must have wondered how Jesus would treat him. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?’’ Three times Peter responded that he did.  Jesus told him how to prove it.  “Feed my sheep.”  If he really loved Jesus, he would share God’s love and care with others.  And he did.  Peter spent the rest of his life, until he was crucified, sharing God’s love.

 

There is so much in our world that can cause fear.  It’s so easy to live with the urge to fight or flee or freeze.  But when fear strikes, Jesus gives us the antidote.  It’s a simple prescription.  1) Remember we are loved. 2) Share that love.  AMEN